On Friday, March 23, President Donald Trump approved a policy recommendation that states, “Transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service.”
Any transgender troops who are currently already serving in the U.S. military or have been stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex may remain in the military.
However, on late Friday, the White House said that the Pentagon could require them to serve according to the gender on their birth certificate.
According to the New York Times, the newly approved policy also allows the Pentagon to make exceptions where it sees fit with transgender troops.
Trump received these policy suggestions last month from secretary of defense Jim Mattis. The proposals come after court rulings froze the president’s initial ban on transgender troops — issued in July — as potentially unconstitutional.
Mattis wrote a summary of his recommendations on the transgender troops to the president. “In my professional judgment, these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America’s wars, and to ensure the survival and success of our service members around the world,” he said.
Advocates for transgender troops were outraged by the policy announcement and vowed to fight the limits in court. “There is no evidence to support a policy that bars from military service patriotic Americans who are medically fit and able to deploy,” said Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, which focuses on sexuality and the military. “Our troops and our nation deserve better.”
Trump also made a series of Twitter posts in July 2017, saying, “The United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
According to The Washington Times, Trump’s defense and homeland security chiefs said they were worried about the armed forces’ ability to handle different challenges that transgender troops would bring.
Mattis said in a memo in February that individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria are a substantial risk within the military. “I firmly believe that compelling behavioral health reasons require the department to proceed with caution before compounding the significant challenges inherent in treating gender dysphoria with the unique, highly stressful circumstances of military training and combat operations,” Mattis said.
In 2016, the Obama administration announced it would allow transgender troops to serve after a study from RAND Corp. that the military could handle it.
However Mattis led a new study that said RAND’s views were selective and acknowledge limits to the data being researched. The new Trump administration review, detailed in a 43-page report submitted to the court, said the issue turned out to be “more complicated” than RAND had foreseen.
Advocates for transgender troops blasted the review and said it was a thinly veiled attempt to justify their discrimination and push the administration’s agenda.
Trump’s new policy will have to convince the courts, who formerly ruled that the ban violates troops’ constitutional rights to equal protection, that the proposal respects the civil liberties of transgender individuals.